Unregulated Alternative Medicine

February 2003 | Volume 2 | Issue 1 | Original Article | 58 | Copyright © February 2003

Andreas J. Bircher, MD and Christian Surber, MD

Unconventional (i.e. alternative, traditional, or complementary) treatments are used by many individuals for a variety of symptoms and disorders. Reports on fraudulent products used for unconventional treatments are not uncommon. These include herbal remedies offered as "natural" while containing non-labeled synthetic pharmacological ingredients or even toxic agents, patients not being informed of active ingredients, products containing no active substances, or unqualified individuals or "clinics" delivering dangerous advice or treatment. Reports on tainted topical products remain rare due to the high analytical demands necessary to detect minimal traces of unknown ingredients, the fact that patients often use medications from different sources, and patient over-reliance on the effectiveness of folk remedies or advertised claims. The patients' assumption of receiving a safe and effective therapy by "natural" products has shown to be unreliable. The authors urge that quality standards for "natural" and pharmaceutical products should be the same and that only qualified professionals should deliver treatment and medical advice.